Federer, 8-time former champ Nadal and Canada's Raonic advance in Monte Carlo
Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 12:15 pm
MONACO, Monaco - Canada's Milos Raonic opened his clay-court season with a second-round victory over Taiwan's Yen Lu-Hsun at the Monte Carlos Masters on Wednesday.
The No. 8 seed from Thornhill, Ont., rebounded nicely after dropping a first-set tiebreaker in the 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 victory.
"I did a lot of things well today," Raonic said. "I had the discipline I needed when things were not going so well.
"I played a clean match, on a lot of his service games I was creating opportunities for myself."
Raonic, who had a first-round bye, fired 19 aces and completed the win in just under two hours in cool, windy conditions. He had three set point opportunities in the opening set but couldn't convert.
"Even losing the first set, I still had chances in his service games," he said. "During the rest of the match on every game on his serve I was at least getting close.
"I felt at ease despite the situation after the end of the first set."
The Canadian rallied in the second set with an early break to lead for 2-0, eventually taking a 5-2 lead and serving it out to pull even. He ran away with the third set for the win.
Raonic will next play No. 11 Tommy Robredo of Spain, who earned a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over Julien Benneteau of France.
"My goal is to do as well as I can this clay season and better than I did last year," said Raonic. "My main focus will be on the tournaments in Madrid and Paris."
Also Wednesday, Roger Federer was happier than eight-time champion Rafael Nadal after their straight-sets wins to reach the third round.
Federer took just 52 minutes to beat veteran Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-2, while Nadal overcame a rusty start to put away Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-1.
The top-seeded Nadal, who lost the title to Novak Djokovic last year, dropped his opening service game and trailed 3-1 in the first set. But from 4-4, the Spaniard reeled off six straight games, then the Russian qualifier broke his serve again.
"I think I started little bit slow," Nadal said. "But he was playing very, very aggressive, hitting very strong, with no mistakes."
Nadal's body language suggested he was far from happy with his performance. At times he looked glum-faced, other times annoyed with his shots. His serve was vulnerable, too, as he conceded four break-point chances — including in consecutive service games during the second set. He clinched victory with a crisp forehand winner.
"I felt comfortable in the second set," Nadal said. "I think I was playing better. "
Federer, returning to the tournament for the first time since 2011, was far more ruthless as he raced to 5-0 in 17 minutes. He improved his record against the 35-year-old Stepanek to 14-2. The Czech has not beaten Federer in six years.
"A bit surprised how well it went. On clay, when you have the upper hand from the baseline, it's kind of hard to get out of it," Federer said. "That's kind of how it was for Radek. I had a good start to both sets, I was solid on my own service games. It was clearly a good match to start my clay-court campaign."
The fourth-seeded Federer next plays another Czech, Lukas Rosol, who beat Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-4, 6-4, while Nadal plays Italian Andreas Seppi, who won 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-4 against Spaniard Pablo Andujar.
Federer has never won Monte Carlo, losing in three straight finals to Nadal from 2006-08. They can't meet again until the final.
Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded third, was slightly faster than Federer, needing only 46 minutes to thrash Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-0, 6-2.
"I expected a more difficult first round against him. I felt good on the court," Wawrinka said. "I know that if I feel good physically, then I am able to put a lot of pressure on my opponent."
No. 10 Fabio Fognini of Italy, No. 11 Tommy Robredo, No. 12 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and No. 15 Nicolas Almagro — both Spanish — also advanced to the third round.
Raonic rallied to beat Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1; Fognini downed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-6 (6), 6-4; Robredo won 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 against Julien Benneteau of France; Dimitrov downed Spaniard Albert Ramos 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Almagro beat Nicolas Mahut, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
Grand Prix Hassan II winner Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat No. 17 Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 7-5, and Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta next faces defending champion Novak Djokovic after winning 6-3, 7-6 (6) against Gael Monfils.
— With files from The Associated Press.